Raphaël Linari, chief designer at Alpine, recounts the partnership's history and how the concept car went from idea to reality, highlighting the many benefits for both the school and the manufacturer, especially when it comes to unearthing new talent.
"Interpret the design codes the Alpine brand and transpose them into the future by designing the 'super berlinette' of 2035. The two-seater supercar will have to be as sporty as it is environmentally friendly. It will be hydrogen-powered and must embody the spirit of Alpine cars: lightness, sportiness, driving pleasure. You have five months!"
These were the instructions given to the twenty-eight master's students from the Istituto Europeo di Design (IED) design school based in Turin (Italy), who started work on the project in September 2021. An enthralling project as not only did the students have to draw their futuristic concept-car on paper and then on computer, but they also had to life-size scale model of their design.
As is the case every year when the school partners with a different car brand each time, the original goal was to present the final design at the Geneva Motor Show. Alas, the 2022 edition was called off – following a previous cancellation in 2021 – but that did not dishearten students from seeing their project through to the end. Hence, the A4810 Project by IED concept-car, the fruits of their labours, was unveiled late last week, during a press conference held at the school's campus.
They are Nicolas, Carlos, Abhijeet, Virginia, Sanjay, Valentino, or Faruk, hailing from India, China, Italy, the United States, the Dominican Republic, China, Mali, Spain, and Taiwan. Under the close supervision of two professors and the patronage of Raphaël Linari, chief designer at Alpine – himself an IED alum – they took to the project with enthusiasm, with only a simple oral brief and no supporting documents. "I gave them what they needed to understand the brand, its design, and its legacy, but only very few constraints. They had to give free rein to their creativity, without feeling like their hands were tied," Raphaël explains.
The students set to work with without having to worry about any of the engineering or manufacturing aspects. Only the vehicle's general dimensions (length, height, width, and wheel size) were given in advance. Raphaël describes the project in a rather visual manner: "The measurements are those of a supercar. They form a box within which the students had to place the driver, seats, powertrain, and overall shape of the vehicle."
In fact, why a supercar and not a classic sports car like the A110 or an endurance prototype like the A480? "We didn't want to interfere with ongoing projects at Alpine, be they for the open-road or sports cars, all the while giving students the opportunity to take the brand to new heights. It became quickly obvious that 'supercars' was the best theme," explains Raphaël who also adds that Laurent Rossi, CEO of Alpine, was the one who wanted the concept-car to be hydrogen powered for an even more forward-looking take on the brand.
In organising the project as such, Raphaël knew that he was asking students to share their vision of the Alpine brand and to show how they thought its stylistic language would change in the future. He was only half surprised to find that despite their multiple backgrounds, most of the students had given a very 'Latin' look to car. Nothing unusual for a cohort of students enrolled in an Italian school.
After each student having presented their initial thoughts, a stringent selection process took place. "I reviewed each and every drawing with the same management as you would expect in the world of professional design," explains Raphaël. "So, I made an initial shortlist of twelve proposals. Then Antony Villain, the Alpine design director, and I whittled it down to just four. Lastly, Laurent Rossi joined the process as we chose two winning proposals."
After theory comes practice; in other words, the students then had to turn make a physical copy of the concept-car. This phase involved a great deal of discussion between Raphaël Linari and IED students and professors, sometimes even late at night or on weekends. "It showed their mindset and level of commitment to the project," says Raphaël. "For my part, I spent my own personal time accompanying them throughout the project, but it was the least you could do in such a situation when you are 'gifted' a concept car that will boost brand visibility."